Dawkins goes virtual

Dawkins goes virtual

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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Playwright and theatre producer Basil Dawkins is playing his part to keep the local stage alive during the current lockdown of the entertainment industry due to the global health crisis caused by the spread of the novel strain of the coronavirus. Like many of his contemporaries, both local and international, Dawkins is looking to technology as a means of reviving the theatre scene at this time.

Dawkins has pulled on the expertise of a technical team and has created a streaming platform for his work, and the production to roll off this assembly line is the comedy Once A Man Twice a Wife. The play stars Earl Brown, Karen Harriot and Patricia Morris and is directed by TK Dawkins, with original stage direction by Douglas Prout.

“It has been a year since we were abruptly put on pause, and I just realised that something had to be done to keep local theatre alive in these times. Once a Man Twice A Wife was what was running on stage last year this time. We had only been running for six weeks when everything came to a stop, and the truth is it was doing so well. So in order not to deprive audiences of this strong work, we decided to bring back the same cast and have them perform for a virtual audience,” Dawkins told the Jamaica Observer.

“What we have done is created an online platform...something similar to Netflix. You will purchase you tickets from a secure website and receive an access code whch will enable you to watch the production when it airs on April 3 at 8:00 pm,” he added.

For Dawkins, this format is extremely advantageous both to him, as a producer, and his audience. The tickets cost US$9.99, and he noted that, given strict government protocols which limit gatherings to 10 people, this is a good deal. It also widens the audience which can access this form of Jamaican entertainment in the comfort of their own homes.

“You and nine of your friends can gather and watch the production on one ticket, which makes it less than US$1 per person. Our audience can be much wider. So, especially for the Jamaicans in the Diaspora who may be feeling left out as we are not able to tour at this time and are experiencing lockdowns due to COVID, or just bad weather, this comes at a great time,” said Dawkins.

The veteran theatre man is aware that this is new terriotory and is, therefore, treading lightly in these initial stages. That, he said, is the reason he is only going for a single date (April 3) for this first showing. This, he explained, will be used to test the market and see how it works from then on. Dawkings further noted that, based on how this first run goes, there might be a plan to put something new on the platform every three months.

“One of the things I am very serious about is the quality of the product. It has to be first world. My technical team has assured me that the only thing they cannot assure patrons, when it comes to the quality of the production, is the realiability of the electricity supply and the patrons' own Internet supply. We are starting slow with Once A Man Twice A Wife and then, depending on how things go, we could be doing something every 90 days. We will be depending on demand to see how we go.”

“The truth is this is where we will go in the future. When things happened last year I thought to myself by June we will be done, then I said October, and here we are in February. So we just had to develop a facility to move on. Once we come out on the other side of this thing, I'm sure we will be back in the physical space. But until then let us enjoy the theatre virtually,” Dawkins remarked.

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